BECOME WHAT YOU ARE:
Growing in Christian Character
by Bishop Julian Porteous
(Modotti Press, 2012, 220pp, $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-92216-808-5. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Bishop Julian Porteous has been an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Sydney since 2003 having been ordained in 1974. He has had pastoral experience in a number of Sydney parishes, is a vigorous promoter of the new evangelisation, particularly among young people, and is a regular and popular speaker at retreats and conferences involving committed young adult Catholics.
As with Cardinal Pell, he is a prolific writer and has published several books including A New Wine and Fresh Skins: Ecclesial Movements in the Church, A Manual of Minor Exorcisms and Prayers for Those Experiencing Spiritual Affliction. His latest work, Become What You Are: Growing Christian Character will, therefore, be eagerly awaited.
This is a book for thoughtful readers, especially those working in secondary or tertiary education. The topic is serious and argued logically, but the language clear and straightforward.
Chapters include: "Made in the Image of God", "The Question of Good and Evil", "In Need of Redemption" and "A Life in the Holy Spirit" through to "Life in God", "Prayer" and "Holiness of Life".
These days there is less emphasis in the whole of education on the matter of character formation, Christian or otherwise. Fewer books and articles explore the issue. This can be a pity, now being remedied by Bishop Julian's new book.
While any emphasis on character formation may seem anachronistic to some, this book would be useful and relevant for Catholic parents and educators in increasing their awareness of what Christian character formation involves.
Character formation was a critical issue in education from the 19th century, being associated with a cluster of goals like the importance of a Christian view of life, strong personal convictions and an ability to maintain personal standards under stress or in difficult circumstances.
It is easy to see why aspects of this approach may not not resonate with all parents and educators in today's culture when other concerns receive greater emphasis, such as the importance of relationships, gender equality, or the ending of all forms of discrimination. In some ways, it's just a matter of language.
The importance of the present book is that it recalls Catholic parents and other educators to the importance of personal formation in Christian principles and the qualities that this involves. The book is highly recommended.